Q: “I’ve been racing in endurance races lately, and have had more than my share of close calls, and even a couple of car-to-car contacts. One of the close calls was when another car dive bombed me, and one when I was trying to out-brake another car. Is there a rule or guideline as to who owns a corner when two cars are going into it together?”
A: No one owns a corner, as far as I’m concerned. Racing is about compromises, respect for one another, and knowing when to back off to fight another day.
Different race series and organizations have different rules, which is why it’s important to know them. Read the rules books and supplemental regulations, attend driver’s meetings, and ask questions.
Many race series and organizations have a rule or guideline that says something about the passing car being responsible for making a safe pass. I think this causes problems, as it creates a mindset for drivers being passed that they don’t have any responsibility when going into a corner with another car that’s attempting an overtake. And that’s a problem.
A better rule/guideline, and one that more and more organizations are adopting, is that both drivers are responsible. In this way, the responsible parties have been doubled, which means that it’s twice as likely that there will be safe passes. If you race with this mindset, things will go better.
So, who has “control” of a corner? If the overtaking car is on the inside when in the brake zone, and has its nose at least even with the driver of the other car — and ideally further up alongside than that, to around the front wheels of the other car — that overtaking driver “controls” the corner. By “control,” I mean that it’s in a position where the other driver should see it, and can’t do much other than fall in behind it. “Control” is not a rules things, it’s a positional thing. I don’t care what the rules say, if the driver of the overtaking car positions itself so the other driver sees it, and has its nose at least equal to the driver or further up alongside before the turn-in point, then it’s in a position where the driver being passed doesn’t have an option — they have to fall in behind (or try to stay with the other car by going around the outside, which very rarely ever works).
If the overtaking driver doesn’t get far enough alongside — its nose behind the middle of the other car —then it’s in “no man’s land,” and the likelihood of contact was gone way up. In this case, it’s unclear who is in position to lead through the corner.
Of course, with both cars at speed, the space between them is a moving target, and it’s difficult for either driver to be super accurate with judging whether the passing car is far enough up alongside the other car to control the corner. That’s why contact happens between cars — it relies on two drivers traveling at speed while controlling their cars at the limit to accurately judge the positioning. That’s why I say racing takes compromises and smart decisions.
Never forget that you may know, buy into, and follow what I’m saying here. You may know the rules and guidelines of the race series/organization you’re competing with. But the other driver you’re either passing, or is passing you, may not! You have to assume they don’t, and expect the worst.
To answer your question as simply as possible, no one “owns” a corner, and you should be prepared for other drivers to not play by the rules, written or unwritten. Remember, racing clean is what our sport should be all about.
What I’ve said here is just the beginning of what racecraft and race etiquette is all about. This is a huge topic — I did an entire webinar on racecraft (and will again in the future) that lasted more than a couple of hours. But I think if you keep in mind that no one owns a corner, you’re on the right track (no pun intended).